Headline July 30, 2016/ ''' INDIA'S NALANDA UNIVERSITY : !PAN - ASIAN OLDEST! '''



IN PAKISTAN  -THE PROUD, HISTORIC, FLEETING,  'First Conceptual Host*  and Trustee of the World Students Society:

*The education budget has doubled in recent years*   -to almost as the military's   -but literacy and  dropout rates remain abysmal, and  all 'ghost schools'  persist, one latest, and highly respected source and report discloses.

*More than half of Pakistan's  8-year-olds cannot read* says the report. Standardized test scores of fifth and sixth graders, or students aged 10 and 11,  showed  Zero  improvement between  2012  and  2014.

A staggering  24  million  children are not in school and more than half of eight-year-olds cannot read despite the budget growing twofold to $7.5 billion in the past six years.

These above stats and figures are from the US based Wilson Center release just 2 weeks ago.

But while all this is happening here,  *India's Nalanda University is delightfully and feverishly preparing for its First Convocation in August after 800  years. Yes!  -after  800  years*.  

*To help get to the base line, and understand how all this happened, -the history and the context, let's  zoom on to September 2010*   -and pick up the tale from there: 

SEPTEMBER  2010:  IVORY PAGODAS FOR SURE : AN ANCIENT PAN -ASIAN UNIVERSITY, that could be so easily one of the world's very oldest,  -is all open again. 

And that is one hell of an achievement and an honour  for the state. Frankly, Nalanda is an unlovely place in the very poorest state in India. Yet, -

As in much of Bihar, a prosaic present belies a poetic past. It is the site of one of the  great universities which-

Half a millennium before the founding of Oxford, flourished with some 10,000 students, and monks from all over Asia.

Mango groves and Lotus pools circles its halls, and an 8th century inscription touted its  ''row of pagodas the spires of which touched the clouds.'' .

If some scholars and diplomats have their way, a new generation of students, will be enrolled. A bill has just snaked through India's Parliament calling for Nalanda's revival, at a likely cost of several hundred million dollars.

The Nalanda Mentor Group, led by the distinguished Amartya Sen, an economics Nobel Laureate, has overseen the project since it was first proposed in 2006.

The Bihar state government has agreed to provide 500 acres  for a new campus and   India's Planning Commission    has proffered 1 billion rupees [some $21million}  to get the project started. A chancellor has been appointed.

Nalanda could be  showpiece of regional diplomatic engagement; a declaration in support of it was signed at a  2009  summit in Thailand by 16 countries, of which Japan and Singapore have shown most interest.

Even China has offered to help, says Mr. Sen, who notes a Chinese former minister is part of the project. George Yeo Singapore's foreign minister who is also on the Mentor Group, says:

Nalanda matters to the whole region, not least because a translation of the famous Lotus Sutra, a religious text by one of the monks is the basis for Mahayana Buddhism practised in East Asia. 

Whatever the university comes to symbolise, it must first be built. ''There is no commitment to funds even now,'' admits Mr. Sen, but fund raising is beginning.

Setting up universities by inter-governmental  agreements is also an unproven model, but Mr. Sen points to a new one in Delhi founded by the South Asian Association  for Regional Cooperation, as a possible guide.

The Nalanda Project enjoys the support of Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, which should give it a push in one of India's most dysfunctional states.

And the project's appeal is clear : Nalanda offers both a glimpse of a glorious past and chance of a bit of neighbourly collaboration. 

With respectful dedication to the Students, professors and Teachers of Nalanda University, India. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society and  !E-WOW!  2011:

''' Eco-!WOW! Honours ''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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